French Tech

French Tech is a comedy set in the gig economy. Three middle-aged single parents have to stick together in the 24/7 availability world of bullshit work.

Alexandre is a stay-at-home father whose submariner wife wants a separation after he had an affair with the woman at the unemployment office where he picks up his dole money. Desperate to prove to himself to her, and having to survive without her paycheck, he goes back out into a labour market he barely understands. He blags a job at a start-up where both the job and the business remains unclear to him. It’s one of those actualising integrated solution optimization horseshitathons. Everyone’s sitting around in deckchairs or yoga balls, wearing tshirts that say Be Kind or Total Wellbeing, while no one has sick pay or paid holiday leave.

He is helped by single father Arcimboldo, whose income is patched together from a thousand different app gigs. He Ubers, upcycles shit on ebay, collects and charges courier drones, and is a stand-in for folk who want to attend protests (but maybe don’t want to have their head caved in by the cops). Together they juggle childcare responsibilities as Arci explains some of the more basic jargon to Alex.

Alexandre’s work contact is Severine, a frazzled but efficient businesswoman, who understands and negotiates the bullshit soup that is her job but hates every minute of it. Alexandre finds her intimidating, but Arci takes a liking to her. She eventually reveals she is also struggling with the same issues as the others.

The film is about how the shine of technology and the Orwellian use of bullshit language have obscured the fact that labour rights have slid back to Victorian times. In a world where we are all constantly working, there seem to be no employers. In one scene, Alex’s Uber driver almost falls asleep at the wheel, apologising that he’s been driving for 14 hours. “They don’t let you take a break?” he asks him. “I’m my own boss,” the driver retorts.

For me personally, I almost couldn’t find this funny, because it’s so accurate. A joke’s sweet spot is to be somewhat true and somewhat an exaggeration, otherwise it’s just a statement of fact or it doesn’t make sense. French Tech falls too much towards the statement of fact end of the spectrum for me. I know too many people working 2 and 3 jobs – I’ve been someone working 2 and 3 jobs – and watching this, I wasn’t so much laughing as going, “Yup. That’s what it’s like.” As traditional employment gives way more and more to the gig economy, this dystopian hellscape is going to become our standard reality.

Favourite part of this was the banjo version of Daft Punk’s Da Funk.